Project Pink: First Rolling Look

Today was a momentous day.  Morning. Project Pink has stepped into phase whatever, aka the “it rolls” phase.  I did a little initial ride around downtown which included some bike lane, my favorite pedestrian bridge, a bit of levee/dirt riding, and a quick stop on my second favorite pedestrian bridge for a photograph.

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That’s a good looking whip.

Here are my initial thoughts: The Twin Six Standard Rando frame works well with Road Plus tires, almost as if it was built for them.  Steel is Real, and it rides like a good steel frame should, and had a great fit/feel right off the start.  It handled comfortably on pavement, but when it was time to climb up onto the levee south of downtown is when it really shone.  The smaller wheel diameter mixed with the 47mm WTB Byway tires took on dried up ruts (ala B-roads) like a champ, even thought I was expecting less than spectacular handling compared to a 700c wheel.  It was a little choppier, but ate up every big rock, rut, divot, and bumpy grass line I fed it.  The custom Enve/White Industries/Son28 wheel set spun up to speeds quickly, but felt like they were lacking a little momentum. Time and miles will tell, as this was only 5 miles of riding, but the momentum issue could come into play on long flat stretches.  As far as climbing goes, on the one short hill I encountered, this wheel set is as expected: Grand Champion.  Light weight, spins up to speed fast, gets the job done and looks pretty hawt while doing so.

This is my first foray into the SRAM Road 1x universe, and I’m still a little skeptical.  It shifts well (as well as I had it set up, that comes up later…), and I do love the simplicity of one shifter.  I am running 42 up front with 11-36 in the back, and I feel like that might be about right, maybe a little heavy, for riding down in the Southern Iowa gravel.

I topped it all off with some of my classic favorites, a Brooks B-17 Saddle, Salsa Cowchippers,  Thomson seat post and stem, Lizard Skinz bar tape (still needs to be installed), and Crank Brothers Candy pedals (my old test Mallets are shown here. I keep the orange ones in the shop because they are easy to find haha).  The familiarity of the cockpit keeps the adjustments to a minimum. At least it was supposed to…

The issues that came out during the test ride:

  1. The rear tire did not seat fully on one side, so I had a fun little “hop” going on during the flats.  It was enough to kind of toss me around a bit. Whoops.
  2. The stem is too short. This was great for riding on the hoods, but put the bars in a spot that made riding on the tops a little cramped. Problem solution: the Fargo could use a shorter stem for the aero bars on it currently. I’ll do a little swap meet.
  3. The shifting was a little wonky.  I decided that there was too much slack in the chain while installing and took a link or two out.  This was a mistake. After I had everything together, I noticed that you could tension the chain via a set screw on the back of the Rear D. MAKE SURE YOU READ INSTRUCTIONS AND MAYBE WATCH A VIDEO WHEN INSTALLING UNFAMILIAR COMPONENTS. Another whoops. I will be patching the chain back up with a quick link, which should make the large cog shifting a bit better. Other than needing some adjustment, the Rival 1 shifter worked great.
  4. The seat tube bottle could stand to be lowered.  I am not sure why all companies making “adventure bikes” don’t adhere to the “get your bottle cages as low as possible” ethos set by (I think) Salsa.  There are adapters out there, and I should be able to lower the bottle to fit a Large Revelate Tangle bag in there.
  5. The Brooks saddle, which was a father’s day present from my awesome daughter Justine, might not be the right saddle for this bike. I’m going to swap it for the Selle Anatomica on the Tandem and see how that rides.  The Anatomica is definitely not the right saddle for the Tandem, so hopefully this is a solid swap out.
  6. My LBS sold me a set of non-compatible rotors for the brakes, and they require proprietary brake pads from the maker.  Stopping is not great, but I found another set of Avid rotors and will be swapping those out.  I’ll keep the other rotors for replacement on a bike that is getting near “that time,” and order the correct pads for the setup.  I read they are great rotors, but not when using the wrong pads.

Overall, Pink is almost ready for some mixed road travel, this thing blurs the lines between a road-touring bike and gravel grinder.  The build will give more options for detours than my road bike, which was a main point of the project. I will fix the aforementioned issues, wrap the bars, and throw a light system on from another bike, then I’m looking at doing a little cross country attempt at catching up with the Brai tomorrow.

Sam

CNB

TrackPacking: Next Level “Fun”

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Bikepacking Rig

Ok, we have all heard of Bikepacking by now (it’s the “buzz” outdoor activity right now), and for the tens of you whom read this here “bike blog,” you are probably familiar with the term “Dirtbagging.” These are offshoots of normal rack-and-pannier bike touring (or backpacking if you’re into walking places), and generally involve packing all of your stuff into frame bags and other rackless packs, then hitting the dusty trail to camp out in the woods or some other remote area. Sounds like a whole lotta fun for everyone, right?  Yeah, almost TOO much fun.

Enter the newest bad idea: Trackpacking.  

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Trackpacking Rig

Trackpacking is closely related to Backpacking, more so than Bikepacking, in that you actually put all of your stuff on your back.  All you need is a track bike, or some other such fixed gear bike (no brakes! Trackpacking requires no brakes, them’s the rules), your camping gear, and a messenger bag or back pack.  You can get some pretty severe “messenger back packs” these days, so you almost wouldn’t need to leave anything behind. It’s that simple. Load up your messenger-type bag, hop on your fixie, and head somewhere to camp. This is really ideally suited for Sub-24 hour trips, unless you are particularly fond of long distance, multiple day fixie travel.  I used to be in that realm, but gears kind of soiled my chamois for said torture travel.

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Dirtbagging Rig

Pointless Back Story: I was pondering the entertainment value of the known realms of bike touring/camping, and what could be the next step for camping-kind.  The brainstorm took into consideration equipment on hand, I don’t need to buy any more “packing” gear in this lifetime, how much I love having fun by not having fun at all, and routes/roads to travel here in central Iowa.  I also wanted to use a bike that I had on hand, pretty easily achievable goal, but I wanted to use something that wasn’t common or run-of-the-mill, perhaps a little played out, even.  Enter the Track Bike.

I’ve done one Track bike tour (track bike, messenger bag, 90 miles) years ago, it did not end well as the weather took a sharp nose dive and I was not prepared for the adverse conditions.  I had a new leg tattoo, rain and road grit splashed up into it for a couple hours.  It got infected and I had a fever for a few days.  Yeah, that sucked. I should probably do that again.

So, that is the plan.  I’m putting together a route for a camping trip that involves some fairly level terrain (first three days of Ragbrai come to mind), and I’m getting out there to bust some knees and party on, Garth.

Sam

CNB

 

 

Star Spangled Bagger

Oof. Yesterday was tough, tougher than it should have been.  I set off on a Dirtbagging journey after a few days of delay.  It was in the mid 80’s already, but it was HUMID as all get out.  I could feel my body rejecting the heat after the first few miles. There was some decent cloud cover now and again, and riding through the Clive Greenbelt trail out to Waukee (and the start of the gravel road I was taking north) is nearly all shade.  Originally I had planned on loading my bike into the Sprinter and driving out to the RRVT trail head, then jumping on the Gravel from there. I was headed north towards Brushy Creek State Park, near the Fort Dodge area, then south and west towards Collins, then hop the trail back west toward Slater, then Madrid, then back south on the gravel to the Sprinter. It was a great plan, had I been able to leave on Saturday, and I was looking forward to getting some fresh air, three or four days of camping, and seeing some areas of gravel I haven’t ridden.

IMG_6508Monday morning it was decided that I would just ride from my house instead of starting with fresh legs on the gravel.  No problem, I planned on cutting day 1 short and camping at Ledges State Park, then rolling North for Tuesday night, then heading back towards home Wednesday morning.  Plan was cut short, but I also had things to do on Thursday.  I started off with some delays, then headed to Horizon Line Coffee, a new shop in the Western Gateway area that has all Vegan pastries.  I met one of the founders, Brad, and encouraged him to give me whatever he wanted me to have, which was IMG_6515an Oat Milk Cappuccino, and a day-old Vegan Chili-Lime doughnut. Both were damn fine, and I ran into a friend and chatted for a while. I am really digging the vibe there, and plan on making it a frequent stop.  Thanks, Brad and the Horizon Line folks for providing a new coffee experience in town that has Vegans in mind. It’s much appreciated.

I pointed the rig towards Ingersoll Ave, and my restaurant Krunkwich Ramen House.  I figured I should stop in and check on the crew, and annoy them with my constant bad stories and dad jokes (I’m a grandpa now, it’s my job.).  At this point I realized I had forgotten my flipper, which I always carry, at home.  I also remembered leaving my fourth water bottle (that should be in my frame bag) on the table by the basement door. Sweet. All good, I would stop by Walgreens in Waukee and pick up a cheap pocket knife and a big bottle of water for the road. No problem.  I left the shop and proceeded to climb Ingersoll, not a huge climb, but it’s pretty indicative of the hills I would meet headed north from the RRVT.  The sun seemed a lot hotter than the listed temp, and I felt the first of many weird cold shiver in my neck and arms that would happen through the day.

The hill was crested, and I coasted down to the trail head, hung a right, and started towards the Greenbelt.  It was surprisingly sparsely populated for a Monday morning, which was nice as I was piloting a fairly wide vehicle through the twists and turns.  Once I crossed under the Hickman bridge, the sun really came into play.  There is a long shallow climb into Waukee, and with the fully loaded fatbike it was a slow slog. I felt like I was pedaling in an Uneasy Bake oven.  A few miles up the road I turned north on what I thought was the correct road, but OF COURSE IT WASN’T.  I ended up in a new development construction, but I’m like “hey, I’m on a fat bike. I can ride wherever I want” and proceeded to ride through the soft soil of some new construction plots, then down a sketchy embankment towards the woods, and hopefully to find a place to pop out on the correct road (V Ave). I found a ravine that I was not at all prepared to try crossing, and ended up retracing my path back to the main road, then jig jagged around for a while until I found V.

IMG_6513The gravel has now begun.  I was around 20 miles into my day and finally reached the gravel. It was close to 1pm at this point, and the heat was on.  Big time. The once-distant storm clouds were passing overhead too quickly to provide any real relief from the sun, and I finally got into my first set of rollers. Now, I’m riding this loaded setup for the very first time, and this is my first time Dirtbagging with a Rohloff drivetrain. It’s a challenge finding the right gear at times, and to be honest, I’m not sure I like the twist shift operation. I DID appreciate it during the winter months when my hands resided inside pogies, and I was thankful for this sturdy drivetrain during the crappy weather, but on dry gravel in the heat, it isn’t as necessary.  I started thinking about how I should have stopped for a bean burrito and some cold water before headed north, and having some hardcore anxiety over dogs (I had just read a few article on all the dog attacks on the Trans Am Race, and also I haven’t ridden this road for a long time and don’t remember if there are any bad spots), and the weird cold shivers started happening again. I was already running out of leg, and I was only a few miles into the actual ride.  I stopped and drank water, had some Scratch Labs stuff, rested for a few minutes, but I just felt drained. The Mukluk was too much of a pig for me to push in this state.  I then remembered that I had been off the bike for about 7 weeks due to my tailbone injury  Yeah, that’s a problem. I should have/could have/would have packed all this stuff on my Fargo and at least I would be able to cover more distance in less time, but I HAD TO BE A HERO AND SEE HOW FAR I COULD RIDE THE MUKLUK IN ONE DAY.

The answer to that question of mileage: 25 miles. It was at mile 25 that the realization struck: It was still 10 miles or more to either Woodward or Madrid, where I was going to grab lunch, I was 5 miles north of civilization, and was averaging about 6 mph at this point. It would take me an hour to get back to Waukee, or nearly two hours to get to either town north. Then what? How was I going to make it to Ledges if I couldn’t even pedal to Madrid? I spied a pickup on the horizon, and went in to full on bagger mode. I flagged this gentleman down and he was so kind as to allow me to throw my bike in the back and sag away.  We discussed where I live, and what my minimum sag goal was. He did not want to go into Des Moines, and honestly I thought I would just stop for some food and water then head back north on the Mukluk. He says “you want me to drop you off at Mickey’s?” Brilliant Idea. We headed south.

IMG_6512I felt like a total schmuck for bailing and taking a sag backwards, for “failing” at TWENTY FIVE GODDAMN MILES. Sometimes you win, sometimes you just don’t win as much. Yesterday was that day.  We arrived in the Mickey’s parking lot, I unloaded the pig, said our goodbyes, and mounted up to ride over to the bike rack. I felt unsteady and weak. It’s really bizarre. Entering a post-lunch-rush, mostly-empty bar is kind of eerie, and in my state it was borderline surreal.  There were two guys at a front booth speaking in muted tones, and nobody else. I found a seat at the bar. The bartender emerged after a few minutes, I whined a little whine and ordered water and a Lagunitas IPA.  This is getting really long, isn’t it? They have a Hummus Trio on the menu as a special, so of course I got that. after a few bites of their spicy hummus the body started feeling a little more human again. We had drinks, shot flies with a Salt Gun, and was turned on to Tequila and Soda. Great Drink, I highly recommend it.  I started doing the run down of what the plan to get home entailed, or maybe I would head back north for another shot at getting to at least the Whistlin Donkey in Woodward. It was then my friend and past bail out hero Sandy from Rasmussen Bike Shop rolled in from a ride with her friend Tom. Sandy has the same Ti Mukluk and mentioned that it would fit on her car rack. DING. New option for the ultimate bail. They had lunch, then Sandy, Tom, and I worked to get my Bougie Hobo Bike on her car and back to the East Village.

We rolled in to my hood around 5:30pm, just in time to see the first wave of the thousands of neighborhood invaders that would arrive for Yankee Doodle Pops, which is held at the State Capitol Building aka one block south of my house.  Thank you so much, Sandy, for saving my sorry butt again. I wouldn’t have made it home. It would have been a coast into Clive, then a stop at every bar on the way home (in true bagging style), then bridge beers, three or four more bars, and me spending the entire day completely wrecked on the 4th.  I am thankful for waking up healthy, albeit sore, and motivated to get a bunch of things done at home (like re-skinning my drum kit and getting set up to record) before going out for a regular ole bike ride today. I didn’t make my intended ride, but I now know that I have a ways to go before I can just start plugging away at what I used to to on the reg. Guess I should go ride a bike…

Sam

CNB

A Few Of My Faves

CNB Bike Related Favorites Listing:

  1. Sarah Cooper – “Coop” is a local central Iowa endurance cycling beast. She has been on the “podium” of many of the midwest’s nastiest endurance races, and last year she flat out won Race Across The West, which qualified her for even more punishment in this year’s RAAM.  She won the Women’s Solo category in RAAM last month riding 3,070.28 miles in 11 days, 18 hours and 56 minutes, which also put her in 10th overall among these elite racers.  I will hopefully get to talk with her about her experience sometime soon and transcribe that here. Click on her name up there and read about it all from her own words.  Also, she put on a little thing called the Spotted Horse Ultra, a punishing 150 or 200 mile gravel race in central Iowa. (Sarah if you are reading this, I’m sorry I missed the party, work got a little crazy.)
  2. RidingGravel.com – It’s got the goods, and they know their stuff. Click the link and learn a few things.
  3. BikePacking.com – Have you ever had a question about Bikepacking (DirtBagging)? These folks probably have the answer. A wealth of knowledge for all you who like your touring dirty, or all of those who aspire, it’s worth a click.
  4. Compass Snoqualmie Pass Tires – These 700cx44mm tan-wall beauties are the big sibling in the “pass” line. Mine are in the ulra supple “extra light casing” model, and ride so nice I’d like to put these on pretty much any of my bikes that would fit them. Highly recommended.
  5. J-Paks GravelPak – It’s the “Baby Bear’s Porridge” of seat packs.  This Pak is the ultimate seat pack for long day rides, packing wet weather gear on your commuter, or keeping your “ride kit*” handy in an easily transferrable package. This thing has lived on many of my bikes over the last 10 months.
  6. Pink (the color) – I’m way into pink right now. There’s Project Pink, and it was reaaaaaally difficult to avoid trying to put pink ano everything on this beauty. If you have pink ano parts for sale, let me know. I’m starting to horde them for a rebuild of one of my current bikes.
  7. TAN WALLS TIL SNOW FALLS – That’s my new mantra.  The Compass line of tires has nothing but tan wall goodness, and the WTB Byway set waiting to go on Pink are a lovely tan wall. Maxxis, Panaracer, and many more can provide you with those lovely walls of tan. Tan is the new Black.
  8. Speed Metal Cycling Podcast – This is the only way I like to experience the thrills and chills of professional road racing, through the hilarious insight of Dan Skullcrusher, Klaus, Natalia, and Mike.  It’s amazing how a few huge doping scandals soiled this sport for me for life.  I remember getting the Tour De France special editions of the bike magazines when I was a kid, seeing these heroic young (and some old) men just destroy themselves in the name of winning “just a bike race.” Decades later we all find out they were also destroying themselves with performance enhancing drugs.  It’s a shame that road racing was just a sham the whole time. I’m totally in to not watching the Tour, but listening to these lovely creatures discuss the tour is awe inspiring. They also have a Name That Colombian page that coaches you on how to properly pronounce the names of Colombian racers. Very helpful.
  9. Dirt Bagging > Bike Packing – Tomato/Potato situation.
  10. Trans Iowa 14 – NO, this hasn’t been announced, and I half expect that TIV13 may have been the last year, but I’m sure GT will be reading this and I want him to know at least ONE person is thinking about what to do with his fall/spring “free time.”

Sam

CNB

*tools, tubes, air, rain gear, lock, burrito, whatever you take with you on the reg.

WTB Byway: First Impression By Way Of A Long Ass Story

One of the catalysts to starting the new Project Pink build was a conversation about bike stuff with Riding Gravel partner and Trans Iowa mastermind Guitar Ted.  As we rode down the rocky roads of the Gent’s Race, he filled me in on WTB’s “Road Plus” movement (650b rims, 47mm Tires which are supposed to be “better” than running regular skinnies), and his test of their Horizon tire. We also chatted about their upcoming yet-to-be-officially announced more-gravel-friendly tire, which is now known as the Byway, and how it was superior in stability or something on gravel (you can read GT’s words on the Byway HERE) Then he looks over and says “But you don’t have a 650b bike, do you?”  I swear he flashed an evil grin as he spat those challenging words my dusty direction. Dammit. Accepted.

A few weeks passed, and Trans Iowa 13 happened.  WTB was kind enough to be a sponsor again this year, and they sent over tires for everyone who finished.  It was a really bad year for finishing, but a good year for building an entire new bike around a new-to-me wheel size, and I was offered up a set of Byways of my own. Thank you, GT, you are the best (If you know him, you know this already. If you have done TI, you may have a slightly different opinion of him. He’s also one of the best at punishing bike courses).

So I secured a frame for the project, and it happened to be the same frame that GT was running his 650b’s on, the Twin Six Standard Rando.  I’m definitely stoked on doing my own test on the same bike that he did his testing on.  I bargain basement shopped for the parts I didn’t have around, and started a wheel build order with my favorite local builder, Ed at Beaverdale Bikes.  He was also a catalyst for Project Pink, as he had procured some very special 650b rims last year, and it took about two seconds to decide on using those.  More on the wheel build later…

“You have a package on the way to you” sprung up on my phone screen.  The tires were on the way! There were the last piece of the pink puzzle, other than waiting on the wheels to be finished.  They arrived. I was so goddamn stoked. I’ve been on a tire search after my favorites, the Clement MSO 40’s, had finally showed me they just weren’t up to the task of hauling my oversized ass around the countryside.  New Tire Day is a thing of celebration around the CNB HQ.

My First Impression: The Byway tires fit neatly in the box in which they were shipped. Upon opening said box, I saw the gorgeous tan walls (TAN WALLS TIL SNOW FALLS), along with the smooth center that graduates to file-tread, then some outer blocks for stability when hitting the sandy corners out there. I decided to leave them in the box on my bench. I mean, I don’t have wheels to mount them on so why get them out yet?

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YES, that is my actual first impression. It’s literal. It’s concise. If you made it through the entire story of how they came to me, thank you.  If you didn’t, how did you end up just reading this paragraph?  My plans are to set these up tubeless on the new wheels, which will be my first tubeless setup on an “Adventure Bike.” I’ve been running tubeless on my single speed 29ers and my fat bikes (FATBIKE!) for a while now, and it’s been great, I’m looking forward to seeing how the Byway stands up.  I’m just really pumped to get this bike all built up and rolling. I am thinking of all the times I rode long road rides on my..uh..road bike…and how many gravel sidetracks I didn’t get to take because of my puny 28mm tires.  NO MORE! I truly hope that the Byway will bridge the gap between the dirt/pavement realm for me, giving a good fast paved roll and the ability to go off-route and tear shit up on the gravel.

Sam

CNB

Bikepacking Rant Pt. 2

Unlike most times I have written a “part 2” to anything, I resisted the urge to name it “Electric Boogaloo” or something else closely resembling the subtitle to the sequel to the classic movie “Breakin.”  Breakin was an inspirational movie for me, watching it at a young age on HBO, I decided I wanted to be a DJ.  That dream was never realized, and with that I give you part two of my disjointed rant on the Closely-Related-To-Walking sport of Bikepacking.

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I couldn’t resist. Obviously. I tried. 

So when we left off last, I was getting ready to kick off on a Dirt Bagging expedition which turned into a Tandem Bagging run to test out our collective camping gear at the Whistlin Donkey camp grounds in Woodward, IA.  There was no dirt, but there WAS an actual donkey (although, when pressed to produce a whistle it failed miserably), some really drunk people, and a live band who’s singer was hung up on his gout affliction. It was quite an adventure, in its own special sort of way.  Consider this past paragraph my ride report on that. Oh, and if it’s going to get down to 45 degrees, make sure you bring enough sleeping bags for everyone, or remember your emergency bivy. Lesson learned. Check the weather, dummy hahaha.

Dirt Bagging is the new Bikepacking.  You can spend a lifetime making up names for the same exact thing, but once Bob uttered the term Dirt Bagging, Bikepacking was officially OVER. No more naming, no more pretending that it’s a thing. I mean, we will still talk about it like it’s still alive, but in reality it is over.  We are cyclists, not walkers/back packers. Already covered, right.

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Read it and weep, corporate adventure sellers.

Honestly, I don’t know where this is going.  You probably don’t either. It’s late, this post is over. I’ll try again tomorrow.

Sam

CNB

Bikepacking Rant Pt. 1

How in the crap did Gravel Grinding and Bike Packing become such mainstream phenomena, and why?  Is it that cyclists enjoy the more welcoming atmosphere and different challenge that comes with the dirtier disciplines, or is it the major manufacturers like Specialized, Topeak, Blackburn, etc, who have seen the backroads as an inroads to increasing waning profits and are hard selling this “lifestyle” to casual consumers, or a mix of these and other factors?  Has Gravel Grinding become fun? Is Bike Packing the new Bike Touring?

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South Central Iowa’s Dirt Bagging Gateway, Adams Road

I prefer using a term coined by Bob at the Cumming Tap: Dirt Bagging. 

Dirt Bagging is the truly proper term for Bike packing. Bike Packing is “back packing on a bike,” which I suppose is ok IF YOU WANT TO BE ASSOCIATED WITH THE SUPER COOL SPORT OF WALKING.  Folks, if you are under the age of retirement and are of physical prowess enough to pedal a bike, walking is not cool. Walking is for malls* and death row inmates.

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It’s no shocker that I find walking a complete bore

DIRT BAGGING is truly bicycle touring on dirt. Are you a wanna be walker, or are you on a mission from the Cycling Gods to ride dirt and then do some camping.  It’s being a “Dirty Bagger” (the loving term used for touring cyclists) on the actual dirt. It’s cycling, not a substitute for back packing.  But of course these big companies that are pushing the “Bike Packing” with their ready made bike rigs (taking the fun out of building your own, but also making it easier for people to get in on the entry level), and their chunky, seemingly awkward attempts at frame bags and the like, don’t know what it really is (and what is it, really?) other than a new market to push their version of actual proper gear.  We have J-Paks, Andrew The Maker, Bike Bag Dude, Apidura, Porcelain Rocket, Apidura, and many others who are killing it with excellent bags along with Revelate, who is loosely considered the original innovator of the reckless-based bag system.  Maybe this all goes the way of Topeak’s attempt at cloning the BOB trailer (also excellent for Dirt Bagging), and this stuff will all be on the clearance racks or in rubbermaid storage tubs in the next year.

I’m actually going out to do some dirt bagging right now, so we will discuss this further in the near future. 

Sam

CNB, Dirt Bagger